THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
A Chinese Story
translated by George
In the beautiful Chu-san archipelago
there is a small island where the
flowers never cease blooming, and where
the trees grow thick and high. From the
most remote antiquity nobody has been
known to live in the shade of this virgin
forest; the ferns, the creepers, are so entangled
that it is impossible for a man to
cross this wilderness without clearing his
way with a hatchet.
A young student named Chang, who
lived in the City-over-the-sea, used to rest
himself from his daily labour by going out
to sea in a small junk he managed himself.
Having heard of the mysterious island, he
resolved to explore it, prepared wine and
food, and sailed out on a beautiful summer's
Towards midday he neared the place
where the island was supposed to be.
Soon a delicious perfume of flowers was
brought to him by the hot breeze. He
saw the dark green of the trees over the
light green of the sea, and, when still nearer,
the yellow sand of the beach, where he
resolved to disembark.
The junk touched the shore; he tied it
to a large fallen tree whose end dipped into
the gentle waves, and proceeded at once to
a hearty meal.
While he was storing again in the boat
what remained of his provisions, he was
suddenly startled by a subdued laugh.
Turning his head, he saw among the wild
roses of the shore, a young girl covered with
a long blue dress, who looked at him with
dark eyes full of flame.
"Your servant is most happy to see you
here. I did not suppose I should ever have
the pleasure of meeting you."
"Who are you?" asked Chang, forgetting,
in his astonishment, the proper forms of
"I am only a poor singer who has been
brought here by The-Duke-of-the-sea."
Chang, hearing these words, was afraid
in his heart; The-Duke-of-the-sea was a
renowned pirate who used to plunder every
village of the coast, and was reputed to be
cruel and vindictive. But the girl was so
attractive that he soon forgot everything
in the pleasure of her chatter.
Seated at the foot of a big tree, they were
laughing, when a noise came from the forest.
"It is The-Duke-of-the-sea! It is The-Duke-of-the-sea!"
murmured the girl. "I
must be off at once."
And she disappeared behind the foliage.
While Chang was asking himself what he
should do, he suddenly saw a huge snake
coming straight to him. Its body was as
thick as a cask, and so long that the end
was still hidden in the forest, while the head
was balancing over the frightened student.
Chang could not say a word and dared
not move: the snake entwined himself
round a tree and round the man, holding
fast its prisoner's arms. Then, lowering
its head, it threw out its tongue, and,
pricking the student's nose, began to suck
the blood which came out and fell on the
Chang saw that, if he did not immediately
free himself, he would certainly die. Feeling
cautiously with his hand round his waist, he
took from his purse a certain poisoned pill
that he kept there and intended to try on
wolves and foxes. With two fingers he
took the pill and threw it into the red pool
at his feet.
The snake, of course, sucked it with the
blood; it immediately stopped drinking,
straightened its body, and rocked its head
to and fro, knocking the tree-trunks and
Chang, feeble and hardly able to stand,
dragged himself as fast as he could out of
reach on to the beach and quickly untied
his boat. Nevertheless, before going out
to sea, he fetched a sword and went cautiously
into the wood again. The snake
did not move. Chang flourished his sword,
and with a mighty stroke cut the head off
and ran to his boat.
He returned to the City-over-the-sea,
went to bed and was ill for a month.
When he spoke of his experience, he always
said that, to his mind, it was the beautiful
girl he had seen at first who had come
again in the form of a snake.